By Julia Deng
MIDLAND - Jace Powell credits Buddy, his 4-year-old service dog, with getting him through the worst of his post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms after retiring from the U.S. Army.
"He's the reason I'm able to go out in public and do things other people take for granted," Powell told NewsWest 9. "Buddy does what drugs, counseling and doctors couldn't do for my PTSD. [He's a] life changer and a life saver."
Powell grew up in Midland and enlisted in the Army at age 18.
"Right out of high school, [I] did a combat tour in Afghanistan," he said. "I'm now medically retired."
The transition from military life to home life was a unique challenge for him. Powell said nothing alleviated his PTSD symptoms until he reached out for help and was paired with Buddy.
"It's amazing, the power of a service animal. There's really no replacement for one," Powell said.
Powell's service dog has since become his travel companion and "part of the family."
The two are practically inseparable and, according to Powell, he and his wife "never had any problems" bringing Buddy anywhere until Saturday.
"We headed down to the Rattlesnake Roundup down in Sweetwater," he explained. "We were lining up, getting ready to pay and go in, when the head of security came up to us."
Powell said the event guard refused to let him enter because he was accompanied by a service dog.
Security personnel can be heard in video footage of the disagreement saying, "There is [sic] exemptions to the ADA service laws."
It was unclear which specific exemptions they were attempting to cite.
Powell said Sweetwater Police were then called to mediate the situation. He allegedly showed police and security guards text from state and federal laws outlining his disability rights.
NewsWest 9 contacted Rattlesnake Roundup organizers and Sweetwater officials for comment; they have not responded.
"It was humiliating to me and my wife," Powell said. "I know my rights and I know this was a violation of my civil rights. Legally, [Buddy is] just like a piece of medical equipment. [He is] just like a wheelchair [or] just like a set of crutches."
Powell claimed the security guard's actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Texas state law.
"I used to work in law enforcement and I am well versed in my rights," he said. "The great state of Texas [provides] a criminal penalty to people who deny access to service animals."
Criminal penalties relating to refusal to allow service animals in public facilities are outlined in House Bill 489, nicknamed "Bootz's Law," which has been in effect since January 2014.
"It was degrading. These are civil rights. I fought in the military [where] I lost brothers and sisters. I'm not going to stand for anyone trampling rights," Powell said.